The door swings open without a sound, displaying a properly homey (if not meager) little room. It’s looks lived in; it has a personality and the garbage on that little table doesn’t really smell so bad. And is that… snoring?
Bean’s ears catch the quiet sound almost right away and he freezes in his tracks, swinging his head around to look at where a single bed is tucked against the wall. Jeremy and Maebe file in behind him, following the direction of his attention and all three freeze. There’s a girl just sleeping there in the middle of the afternoon! She looks so peaceful but considering the secret doors they just walked through, she’s obviously not here because she wants to be. They huddle in, talking quietly… Should they wake her?
That terror-filled, piercing shriek means that waking her is not a decision they have to make.
Maebe instantly hurries to the shaking girl’s side, hands outstretched as if to show she’s unarmed and speaking in hushed tones. “Shh… Shh… It’s OK, it’s OK I promise. We’re not going to hurt you. It’s OK!” Maebe’s finally allowed close enough to reach a comforting arm around the pale girl and she’s shocked to feel how frail she is – all skin and bones that recoils from her touch.
“D-don’t… Who,” her voice is hoarse as if it’s never used and she takes a couple of moments to clear her throat, all while her eyes dart around the room and from strange face to strange face as if she’s a cornered and caged animal. “Who are you?”
As the two girls talk in hushed tones, with Maebe trying desperately to be reassuring, something clicks with Bean. For years and years he saw his brother’s picture flashing through news segments or on the internet. At first frequently and then just on the anniversary of his disappearance. It stopped being sensational but that never stopped him from watching each report with hope for new information. He saw the same school photos and snapshots from his family’s albums over and over. Next to those pictures were pictures of three others, their names and young faces etched into his memory. His brother, blond and innocent, Celeste Goth with her nose in the air in every snapshot, Owen Perry looking bold and mischievous and “Amaya! Jer, that’s Amaya Sowl!! She was… Jack!” His mind is racing a million miles and hour, but Jeremy keeps up (he also grew up in Sunset Valley, after all) and is on his heels as Bean darts from the room.
“You take that door!” Bean tosses over his shoulder and runs down the hall, skidding to a stop where more grooves are dug into the concrete floor, but his call is unneeded as Jeremy is already putting everything he has into forcing the wall open. The two boys get more mental exercise than physical but adrenaline is surging through them. They’re adventurers! Explorers! Rescuers of at least one fair maiden and maybe more! Neither is huffing nor puffing as the doors crash open beneath their weight, depositing them into identical hallways with identical doors set into them.
Bean practically falls into the room behind the door, looking around excitedly in the dim light, only to be let down. The room is sparse and empty, dusty and seeming like it’s missing everything important. Amaya’s room felt alive and this feels like a tomb that’s sometimes scavenged for it’s parts. It’s a lonely, hollow space that leaves a frantic hole in Bean’s heart. What if… What if? No! Just because Jeremy hasn’t called for him, doesn’t mean that… There’s still another room. Still another room and still hope.
He leaves the sad apartment and flings himself across the corridor and into the opposite wall, immediately shifting the door on its hinge… Or whatever holds this thing up. Jack. He’s saving Jack and everything will be better and Jack is OK. He’s never been so determined in his life, never so focused. Voices drift from the far end of the hall but he doesn’t hear how excited and nervous they are, doesn’t hear the questions shouted in his direction or the rattle of teens trying to gather precious belonging into their arms for this exodus. Owen’s been found, but Owen’s not Jack, Owen’s not his brother and his brother IS behind this door. Bean doesn’t hear Owen, or Jeremy or Maebe or Amaya. He just hears every little sound the door makes – each and every miniscule scrape of stone being powdered against stone. By this point he knows where to find the door to the captive’s room, Jack’s room, and he doesn’t hesitate even for a moment in reaching for the door knob, twisting it, and making his way through, his brothers name on his lips.
“Ja…” The name falls flat as a panting Bean comes face to face with a young man who he’s never seen but recognizes oh too well. It’s kind of like looking into a mirror… kind of. That’s the same hair he tries (sorta) to tame every morning, but how it would look if it had never been cut. It even looks like it’s the same texture. They’re pretty much the same height – both of them average (just like everyone else their age) – and Bean’s always been a bit on the scrawny side and Jack’s only a touch thinner. There’s only one thing that really, truly break the ‘reflection.’ Jack’s eyes. This could be any blond haired young man standing in front of him, but there’s only one who shares Lee’s honey coloured eyes and it’s not Bean, it’s his brother. Relief sweeps through both boys and their mirror images seem to relax at the exact same time. As one, they both open their mouths to speak and neither stops to hear the other. “You found me.” “It is you!” As one, they reach out to pull their brother close and Jack slumps into his older brothers arms gratefully, clinging to the back of his shirt. “I thought… I thought…” He begins twice but never completes, just shaking his head and holding tight. His voice sounds totally unused, quiet and raspy and as if his tongue isn’t quite sure how to put words together anymore, but that’s OK. Bean supports him for a moment longer, unsure what Jack thought but for now it doesn’t matter. They need to get out of this room, out of this house, and back to where they belong. It’s Jack who breaks the hug first, his eyes fixated on the cracked open door behind Bean.“Let’s go.” It’s a firm statement, despite the waver in his voice. He doesn’t look around the room, just moves towards the first slice of freedom he’s seen in… He has no idea how long he’s been down here.
“Don’t you want… to… take… anything…” It’s a reasonable question but as Bean glances at the room he sees nothing to take. There’s a raggedy book on the table but none of the art or stacks of notebooks from Amaya’s cell. If all the furniture hadn’t been painted a stark white he might believe that no one had ever been here.
“No. None of this is mine.”With that said, it’s time to leave. Bean leads his brother to where both Bean’s friends and Jack’s fellow captors are waiting at the base of the stairs. Maebe is clearly itching to get going while Amaya and Owen huddle together anxiously, staring at everything with wide, haunted eyes. The six hurry up the stair case and through the doors, Jeremy leading the way, hurrying to get some official help, and Bean and Maebe bringing up the rear. By the time they reach to top of the stairs the others are huffing and puffing, their legs shaking. Not one of them has done this much running or climbing this quickly since they last breathed clean air. They’re moving slowly, still shocked and trying to take in everything around them as well as their new-found freedom and Bean and Maebe are pretty much herding them towards the exit. Jeremy’s already made it, calling for the bullies (who still wait outside the gates, making jokes about their victims being passed out from fear) to “call 911! Call someone, anyone, everyone! We found them!”Bean could have called 911, but now that his cellphone has signal he’s got a more important call to make. His fingers shake as he selects Dad’s number from his list, and he’s hopping foot to foot as the phone begins to ring.
“C’mon c’mon c’mon daaaad Dad! Dad! I found him, we found him! You gotta come quick to that house up the hill, the creepy one. So come co-… Yeah! We did, me and Jer and Maebe went in and we found them! We found Jack!”